The DA has fought long and hard to have a debate in Parliament on the Youth Wage Subsidy, using all the formal and informal channels to convince the ruling ANC that it was in their and the nation’s interest to debate this issue in Parliament.
Rarely have we been able to debate issues arising directly from events taking place in wider society that we as members of the opposition ask the House to debate. Tomorrow, the National Assembly will at last debate the implementation of a Youth Wage Subsidy – a policy aimed specifically at helping to lift our young and unemployed South Africans out of chronic joblessness.
In the Chief Whip’s Forum, the Programming Committee, and in various letters to the Speaker, I have continuously argued how important it is that Parliament debates pertinent issues; that Parliament speaks to the key issues that are affecting the lives of ordinary South Africans. Finally, those arguments have been heard.
Having this debate placed firmly on the Parliamentary agenda is a major victory won on behalf of the 3.2 million young and unemployed South Africans who deserve to hear their elected public representatives speak to them directly on this issue. But it is also an enormous feat for the institution of Parliament and for opposition politics in this country.
It is a constitutional requirement that Parliament provides “a national forum for public consideration of issues” but the fact is that this very rarely happens. Every year we have countless debates of condolences, countless debates on ceremonial issues, countless debates on thematic issues relating to organisations such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, but rarely do we have debates initiated by members on topics such as this. Last year 7 motions of condolence and 8 thematic topics were debated in Parliament, while only 4 issues initiated by individual members were debated.
I hope tomorrow’s youth wage subsidy debate will be a turning point for Parliament and that hereafter the ANC will allow debates of the House to address – and take action on – topical issues facing wider society.